Mother’s Day is Sunday, and mothers deserve this day of celebration because without them we wouldn't be around.
The amount of investment that a mother will give to her offspring greatly depends on her species. Humans are a part of the mammal group and must carry their young in the womb as the baby develops. Women will carry their babies for an average of nine months, or 40 weeks, before giving birth. For some women, this time feels like an eternity, but it is not the longest gestation of all mammals. This honor is held by elephants, who carry their developing babies for over a year and a half, or about 95 weeks!
On the other hand, the mammal with the shortest gestation period is the Virginia opossum. An opossum will only be pregnant for 12 days before giving birth. These dime-sized preemies will find their way up to their mother’s pouch while their eyes are still sealed shut. They will then spend the next two months nursing on mom’s milk and continuing to develop. No matter what species of mammals, moms are investing a lot of energy into their young.
In other species, a mother’s investment in their offspring is less involved. All species of Testudines (turtles and tortoises) will leave their young before the young even hatch out of the egg. Female Testudines create a hole in the ground in which to lay their eggs. She won't just leave them out in the open for potential predators to see, but instead securely buries them before leaving them to continue developing on their own. The ultimate “set it and forget it” attitude of motherhood! Once the eggs are fully developed, the babies will hatch from the egg, dig their way up to the surface, and begin their life all on their own. Mom has given them the gift of life, and their instincts will help guide them the rest of the way.
These are just a few examples of the different levels of investment moms have in their young across the animal kingdom. Here at the zoo, we have a few mothers that will be spending time with their babies this Mother’s Day. Our most recent moms are the two female addaxes, who each had a male calf earlier this year. Their bouncing baby boys can be seen in the addax habitat kicking up their hooves and enjoying nibbling on new grass shoots. If you haven’t had a chance to visit the growing boys, make some time to stop by Lee Richardson Zoo and visit them; they are already about half as tall as their moms at about 5 months old.
Our giraffe mom, Cleo, is celebrating her first Mother’s Day this year! Her daughter, Kijiji, was born last August and is old enough now to take part in Giraffe Encounters this year. While Kijiji is not fully weaned, she regularly grazes on browse, branches and leaves throughout the day. During encounters, she shows interest in all the activity, spending time with mom at the fence line as guests feed Cleo.
We see moms hard at work every day; in our personal lives and in nature. If you are looking to celebrate that special mom in your life, why not bring them to Lee Richardson Zoo on May 12? Enjoy a stroll through the zoo with your mom and make a special visit to see our zoo moms at both the addax and giraffe habitats. Plus, the zoo will have special discounts just for mom! Mothers purchasing Family and Grandparent level memberships will save 10 percent. Moms visiting the Safari Shoppe will receive 10 percent off their purchase, while moms with a Friends Membership will receive 20 percent off on Mother’s Day. Finally, stop by the Giraffe Encounter from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., giraffes and weather permitting, and any mom that purchases an Animal Encounter for their child will get one free for themselves.
From everyone at Lee Richardson Zoo, Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, human or wildlife.
Catie Policastro is the conservation education specialist at Lee Richardson Zoo.